Apple’s iOS 9 has made Apple a more compelling platform for “recovery search,” or searches that are done to recover information about a business that a consumer has visited already. In my latest Search Engine Land column, I discuss the opportunity for enterprises with multiple locations to make themselves more visible by capitalizing on Apple iOS 9’s recovery search capabilities. Consumers are going to rely on their mobile phones to search for what they want in the moments that matter most. How will your brand respond? Read my column and let’s discuss your own strategy.
Image Credit: Apple Insider
Image Credit: Search Engine Land
Just when you think Google can’t become more powerful, along comes its recently announced relationship with Yahoo to remind us of Google’s influence. As you have probably heard by now, Google and Yahoo struck a nonexclusive deal in which Google will provide search ads for Yahoo’s search results, and Yahoo can run organic search results through Google, not just through Bing. The relationship between Google and Yahoo underscores why enterprises should view a handful of influential publishers such as Google as the foundation to amplify their own local reach.
One of the most significant aspects of the Google/Yahoo agreement is that Google is providing search ads for Yahoo search results. Yahoo used to display Bing ads exclusively with its search results, owing to an agreement between Yahoo and Microsoft. But earlier in 2015, Yahoo negotiated a new Microsoft relationship that permitted Yahoo to have more say in its choice of ad providers. The Google/Yahoo deal shows how aggressive Google has been to capitalize on Yahoo’s desire to monetize search more effectively. The Google/Yahoo partnership gets AdWords back into Yahoo results so that Yahoo can better monetize the diminishing search traffic Yahoo is receiving. Consequently, local marketers will likely soon be able to target consumers using Google’s AdWords platform — thus enriching the tools at their disposal.
Google has exerted more influence with organic search results as well. Bing used to be the exclusive provider of organic search results for Yahoo, but the renegotiated Microsoft/Yahoo relationship also opened up the door for other platforms to provide organic results — and Google waltzed right in and became one of those platforms. Now, Yahoo has more choice to route organic search queries to both Bing and Google. It is not outside the realm of possibility that Yahoo will attempt to mash up Bing and Google organic results, but such a scenario feels unlikely. Expect Yahoo to test performance when serving up the two different search results and using the data set that provides a better search experience and more revenue. The data set could very well vary based on factors such as the type of query or the device being used to do a search.
The Yahoo relationship certainly casts a spotlight on Google’s influence, but obviously Google isn’t the only major publisher in the industry. Google may have muscled in on Bing’s turf with Yahoo, but on the other hand, Bing is the default search engine for Apple’s Siri voice-activated assistant, which gives Bing an advantage with voice search. And of the major publishers — Apple, Bing, Facebook, and Google — are main players for amplifying an enterprise’s location data. I advise clients to:
- Take another look at your local marketing strategies — in particular, your location data strategies — and assess the strength of your relationships with the major publishers as well as aggregators that supply data to them. How have the importance of sites providing citations shifted in the local ecosystem? Should your strategy shift with them? The same players redefining the search landscape are also changing local marketing, especially by making it more essential that businesses partner with them to amplify their location data. The major publishers should form the foundation of your local marketing partnerships, complemented by relationships with smaller publishers in key verticals.
- Assess the breadth of your local marketing beyond search. The Google/Yahoo news is all about search, but the influence of the major publishers goes beyond search to touch all aspects of local marketing — as noted, by making location data more important.
The big players are shaping the future of local marketing through the relationships they form and the innovations they develop. Contact us to explore the impact of the Google/Yahoo relationship has on you.
Google just reminded enterprises how important it is to ensure that their location data is ready for the holiday shopping season. On November 2, Google announced that businesses can pre-schedule on Google My Business specific hours for holidays and special events. The feature is a boon for businesses that want to make sure that shoppers know about their expanded holiday hours of operation. The news is also a reminder for enterprises to ensure that their location marketing strategies for the holiday season treat location data as a scalable asset.
In its announcement, Google illustrated how it will display special hours for businesses that schedule them:
Businesses that take advantage of the feature will be better equipped to take advantage of “near me” moments when shoppers are looking for holiday gift ideas or places to find what they want. It’s fitting that Google used a mobile phone image to illustrate the search result. A recently published survey from marketing technology provider Signal indicates that nearly seven out of 10 consumers will browse more frequently from smartphones or tablets than they did last holiday season, and 60 percent said they plan to buy more often from their phones or tablets.
According to e-tailing group, the Number One way U.S. digital shoppers were using their smartphones while holiday shopping last year consisted of looking up store information such as hours and location. Shoppers expect retailers to offer expanded hours of operation during the holidays, but those hours vary from store to store — and region to region if you operate hundreds and thousands of stores. You need to be ready with a listing management plan. Your plan should answer a number of questions, such as:
- Are the names, addresses, and phone numbers (NAP) for all my stores accurate?
- Do all my local pages reflect my expanded hours of operation?
- Have I communicated any changes to my NAP data and hours to the data amplifiers (such as Acxiom, Factual, Infogroup, and Neustar Localeze) that share my directory information with search engines, apps, GPS providers, and other location directories?
Adding holiday shopping hours is especially challenging for large retailers such as Target and Walmart, which offer multiple services in addition to selling merchandise. We call such retailers “containers” because they might have dozens of unique and related businesses within them. A Walmart might offer multiple services such as a walk-in clinic, a bank, a gas station, tire and oil change, a vision center, and a pharmacy. Although the store itself might offer expanded holiday hours, the pharmacy and vision center clinics might not. A consumer’s motivation for visiting these retailers might be radically different from one day to the next during the holiday season: needing a prescription filled on Tuesday, and wanting to buy toys on Wednesday. The retailer needs to make its hours of operation absolutely clear for all its services to satisfy its customers’ many needs.
The SIM Partners 2015 Holiday Retail Guide discusses the importance of supporting your holiday retailing game plan with a strong location marketing strategy, including how you employ location data. To attract more customers this holiday season, check out a copy and talk with us.
Beacons have been a hot topic in location marketing for the past few years, especially after Macy’s launched 4,000 beacons in all its stores recently. But beacons are a means to an end: driving customers to the cash register. And mobile wallets are the key to succeeding with beacons. In my latest Search Engine Land I discuss why enterprises with multiple locations need to focus first on understanding how mobile wallets support their local marketing, and then consider whether and how beacons are the right fit. I also explore why GPS technology might be more appropriate than beacons depending on the needs of the enterprise. Along with how mobile wallets relate to beacons, and the role they will play in the future of local marketing.
Has your organization stated testing beacons? Have you tried a mobile wallet offer? Connect with me. I’d love to hear your feedback.
While many of us were trying to make sense of Google’s recently announced restructuring, Google once again shook up the world of search. As we noted on our blog, Google scaled back the amount of real estate it provides for featured search results by rolling out its three-listing Snack Pack, which gives preference to the top three results instead of the top seven. The advent of the Snack Pack underscores the need for enterprises to practice sound search engine optimization (SEO) at the local level.
To recap: Google’s Snack Pack format highlights only the three top listings in search results, as opposed to the seven-listing format previously used. The three-pack takes a mobile-first design approach, whittling results to basic address, weblinks, and driving directions, as this example illustrates by revealing search results for “gyms downtown Chicago”:
There is no other way around it: the total amount of local and local organic listings on the first page of Google’s search results just dropped by almost a quarter, and some businesses are dropping out as a result. If you are concerned about losing search traffic in a post-Snack Pack world, here’s what you should do:
- Review your local organic search strategy. Why? Because if you were in the 4-7 spots of of the local pack, there is a likely chance that Google will send less traffic your way moving forward. So make sure you are following all best practices for optimizing your local business pages for organic search and continue working to build additional local links.
- On the other hand, don’t neglect to continue optimizing your Google My Business listings and creating additional citations, both structured and unstructured. The conflation of local and local organic signals continues; so ignoring one in favor of another is not in your best interest.
Incidentally, I suspect many businesses will notice a decrease in site traffic and onsite conversions attributable to Google thanks to the Snack Pack. The decrease is beyond the control of your own efforts to optimize for Google and SEO. Rather, Snack Pack listings now show fewer trackable links to websites. In the example I cited for a search for “gyms downtown Chicago,” Google reveals a website and links for the three businesses listed: East Bank Club, Lakeview Athletic Club, and Quads Gym. When you click on the website links, you are indeed taken to the websites for each business. But when you click on the other links associated with each name, you are taken to Google’s Local Finder:
Visiting this Local Finder is not a trackable action from the standpoint of your Web analytics.
So don’t panic if you see a dropoff in measurable Web traffic. The dropoff doesn’t necessarily mean that your local performance level is decreasing, but rather the trackable performance level from Web analytics is decreasing. Instead, look to other metrics like Google My Business reporting, call volume, and in-store visits.
We’ll continue to monitor the fallout from the Google Snack Pack and report our findings. Meantime, contact SIM Partners if you want to discuss implications for your business in more detail.
Image Credit: Startup Nation
Mobile is collapsing the customer journey, and businesses are responding with the launch of more on-demand services, a phenomenon I call the “Uber Effect.” As Uber has demonstrated, an enterprise can satisfy customers by empowering them to get what they want with one tap of their mobile devices. In my new Street Fight byline, I discuss how local businesses need to respond to the Uber effect in order to keep their storefronts competitive. I invite you to read the article and let me know your insights about ways businesses can drive more in-store foot traffic amid the rise of the on-demand economy. Connect with me. I’d love to discuss further.
For quite some time, search marketing practitioners have viewed local directories such as Yelp and YellowPages.com to be an essential element of a local search strategy. Typically, marketers wishing to be visible locally have cast their nets far and wide, ensuring that their location data is listed on as many local directories as possible. But data from a recently released study suggests that marketers might want to rethink their approach to relying on local directories.
Image Credit: Search Engine Land
BrightLocal studied traffic data for 30 prominent U.S. directories, including MapQuest and Yelp. According to BrightLocal Founder and CEO Myles Anderson, the leading online directories (with the exception of Yelp) have experienced a 35-percent decline in traffic throughout the past 28 months. But he also provides some encouraging data: since April 2015, traffic to local directories shows a gradual increase, especially for the “Big 12” principal directors such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB.org) and Yelp.
It is clear that the launch of the Google Doorway algorithm (which penalizes sites with threadbare content) might be contributing to the decline in traffic for local directories. Google has always preferred sending searchers to content-rich local brand pages instead of to directories, where a brand’s content is usually less plentiful and, unfortunately, not always accurate. When Google acts, the digital world reacts.
Unfortunately for local directories, Anderson foresees a tough road ahead. “It’s hard to predict anything except for more decline; certainly, that appears to be the outlook for smaller directories,” he writes. “This decline in fortunes will likely lead to closures or mergers of some sites as their business models no longer deliver enough revenue to make them worthwhile ventures for their owners.”
So what should enterprises that rely in local directories do? I have two words of advice:
- Don’t let the bad news scare you into abandoning local directories. Local listings still provide value in building citations for your brand even if web traffic to directories is declining. As citations continue to be an important part of Google’s local search algorithm, listings on these sites can directly improve your local and local organic rankings.
- Be selective in your investment into local directories. Instead of casting your net far and wide and worrying about getting every citation “perfect,” keep your primary attention on local directories that are likely to appear in Google’s search results and rely on data aggregators like Neustar Localeze and Infogroup to syndicate business data to the sites Google is not favoring these days
Finally, watch the local directory space closely for signs of a shake-out. The directories you favor with your marketing budget might not exist in 2016.
Mobile wallets have many functions, from storing digital information to offering special deals and enriching loyalty programs. It may seem like they haven’t fully taken off yet, but research shows that they will.
As my new Marketing Land byline asserts, mobile wallets also promise to make local marketing more effective. I encourage you to check out the article, “Three Ways to Win with Mobile Wallets,” and let me know what you think of it.
Has your company used any mobile wallet offers? Connect with me, as I would love to discuss this further and learn what you think about the future of mobile wallets.
Photo credit: Engadget
Google just accelerated the customer journey from mobile devices to offline locations. At Google’s 2015 I/O event, the company announced “Now on tap,” a virtual assistance of sorts that makes it easier for consumers to find information on their mobile phones without needing to toggle from one application or Web screen to another. Now on tap promises to help Android users find “what you need in the moment, anywhere on your phone.” The challenge for enterprises with multiple locations: when searchers need something in the moment, will you be present? Will you own the next moment by turning searches into transactions?
As noted on Google’s blog, with “Now on tap,” Google acknowledges that in our hyper-connected world, we want to jump effortlessly from search to discovery to purchase from our mobile devices. When a friend texts you with a quick recommendation for your favorite bar in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, you ought to be able to reply seamlessly with an answer and a link to your favorite bar instead of needing to exit what you are doing. As Aparna Chennapragada, director of product management, notes:
With “Now on tap,” you can simply tap and hold the home button for assistance without having to leave what you’re doing—whether you’re in an app or on a website. For example, if a friend emails you about seeing the new movie Tomorrowland, you can invoke Google Now without leaving your app, to quickly see the ratings, watch a trailer, or even buy tickets—then get right back to what you were doing.
And here’s where things get really interesting from a local search standpoint: “If you’re chatting with a friend about where to get dinner, Google can bring you quick info about the place your friend recommends,” according Chennapragada. “You’ll also see other apps on your phone, like OpenTable or Yelp, so you can easily make a reservation, read reviews or check out the menu.”
It’s easy to see the implications for local search:
- Enterprises that fail to be present with compelling content and accurate name, address, and phone information won’t even be considered.
- Businesses that are present with the right content for those “moments on tap” will be more competitive.
- Enterprises that go beyond “being present” and offer a compelling reason to visit their locations — say, a 10-percent off offer for your mobile wallet — will win.
We have urged brands to own “the next moment” of search, or the action that occurs after a consumer finds your business. Owning the next moment means providing contextually relevant content and experiences that compel consumers to take action. Google Now on tap will make the next moment an instant moment. Note: Now on tap will be available with the forthcoming Android M release.
Google has been keeping webmasters busy lately. In February, Google announced an update designed to reward mobile-friendly sites in search results. In March, Google released the doorway page penalty algorithm, which, as the name implies, cracks down on pages that have been created solely to attract search traffic without providing any value to the searcher. The doorway algorithm update has created some concern among brands that operate multiple pages — for example, national retailers with multiple product pages and locations. My counsel: focus not on Google but on providing quality content, and your brand will be just fine.
I see the doorway update as an extension of the Panda algorithm, which targets thin content created for search engines and not for people. Unfortunately, Google’s definition of a doorway page is murky, which understandably creates some angst among webmasters and search engine strategists. As Home Depot search engine optimization manager Erin Everhart wrote recently in Search Engine Watch, “Even the five questions Google suggested to consider when determining if your page could be considered a doorway page didn’t help give much light to worrying webmasters. How does Google define ‘usable’ and ‘relevant’? If the page actually is an island and doesn’t have any internal links pointing to it, would it not rank in the first place?”
No wonder I have received calls from businesses asking whether their local content pages are “safe.” My advice always comes down to asking yourself one question: Why did you create a particular page of content? To serve a user or to serve a search engine? If you created a location page to serve a function such as providing information about your services, as well as name/address/location detail, then you need not worry that you are operating a doorway page. If you created the page to attract the attention of a search engine, then the page might be tagged as a doorway page and will suffer a penalty.
Yes, the lines can get blurry between legitimate content and doorway pages. A retailer that provides multiple pages for a single shoe line might be veering into doorway territory if the pages consist of thin content, such as the same shoe in different colors. Such a retailer would be wise to combine the product lines on one page for ease of reference or simply make it possible for the user to mix and match shoe colors and prices with the tap of a keyboard.
Google has been targeting thin content for some time. So the doorway algorithm should not come as a surprise. If you’ve been minding the usefulness of your content and focusing on the needs of your customers all along, Google will reward you. More importantly, your customers should be doing so already.